Sunday, August 17, 2008


I had the chance to watch some Olympic coverage last week. They were showing women’s gymnastics and the announcers were talking about how the girls were struggling a little bit, but still made the team finals.

Two had injuries serious enough to limit their events. That had to be pretty tough to take after preparing all their lives. A couple others took an extra step on their landings, and one over-rotated, sitting down on her dismount from the uneven bars.

Big mistakes if you’re in the Olympics, I guess. But did you see what they were doing right before that? Only a few people on the planet can move that way. To me, they were fantastic—extra steps and all.

I also saw a 33 year old woman in the vault—more than twice the age of most of the other competitors. She'd just made the finals. It was her fifth Olympics, a record for women.

Their quest is amazing to watch—their dedication, the commitment to excellence. We can learn a lot from these athletes.

But I’m just as impressed when I go down and watch my cutie-pie and the others at the gymnastics center. Right now, her group is learning how to do better cartwheels, back bends, and back walk-over (basically a backwards cartwheel). I think we can learn a lot from them too.

Right now, they’re light years from what I saw on TV, but they’re just getting started. And if someone rises to the top from here, that would be great.

But if none of them ever takes it to that level, that’s O.K. They still got a lot out of it—better fitness, coordination, balance, confidence, fun—all of which make it worthwhile.

I believe we’re all created for a purpose and we’ve all been given certain gifts. Some people are so gifted, that with hard work, and given the right opportunities, they can be rise to be the best in the world at what they do.

I also believe that we don’t have to be the most gifted to benefit. We don’t have to be the best to make the pursuit worthwhile. Take my running for example.

You don’t have to look far to find a better runner. It’s always a struggle just to finish, let alone try to improve my times. When I run that marathon next month, it will take me more than twice as long as the winner and they won’t even be world class.

I’m always near the back of the pack, and that doesn’t look like it will change much. But there’s something about the pursuit that makes it worthwhile for me.

If I push myself it gives me the moral authority to push others. It helps keep me lean, especially since it’s easy for me to eat more than I need.

It also helps me learn how to be more disciplined in other things. If I can keep going when I don’t exactly feel like it (anything over 13 miles), then I can make it through other things too. You learn how to finish something.

I’m amazed when I see the best in the world do what they do, but the pursuit was just as valid when I was slugging through my snail paced 18 miles earlier in that day. It went pretty well. Nobody died.

It’s just like the spark I see when someone finally gets it. They’ve started working out—and have just figured out that they’re going to be able to make it.

They’re doing things they didn’t think they could do. They’re feeling stronger and know they’re going to be able to take off the weight—and keep it off.

It becomes a pursuit for excellence. It might have started in desperation, but then it becomes a quest, a journey. They’re learning how to enjoy being physical. They’re feeling good about themselves.

I just watched the American men swim to the gold in the 4x100m free relay. They had the fastest split time in history and smashed the world record. They also beat France, who’d been trash talking all week. I’ll bet they’re feeling pretty good about themselves too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Did you know that if a child has one obese parent, there’s a statistical likelihood that that child will grow up to be obese themselves? Or that if a child is obese as they move into their teen years, there is an 80% chance that they’ll stay obese as an adult?

These are sobering facts that should really bother us, yet we don’t seem to be doing much about it. I’m about to say some things that are probably not politically correct. They just may get some of you upset, so I’ll just apologize now and get that out of the way.

I think that we’ve gotten used to being a fat nation. There are movements out there trying to making “plus size” more socially acceptable. While most restaurants and fast food joints have added healthier choices, the top sellers are still the worst things: burgers, fries, and pop.

Schools used to have physical education classes daily. Now it’s every other day. In some cases, kids don’t even get it anymore.

There’s an old saying: “If you think you can, you can; if you think you can’t, you can’t. Either way you’re right.” If you get resigned to being overweight, you’ll stay overweight. If you make the decision to do something about it, you’ll do it.

We do have a choice with this. We can get down to our ideal, lean weight—the TV show “Biggest Losers” proves it every season. Our own local version has proved it, time and time again. People can lose 100 lbs if they just make up their mind to do it.

I spoke with someone yesterday who told me his dad died from heart related problems at an early age. So did his brother. Of course, this is a massive risk factor that makes heart disease a strong probability for him. The fact that he’s seriously overweight all but guarantees it.

Still, he won’t dedicate even 20 minutes a day to a walking/jogging program. Now he’s definitely a busy guy with a lot of important irons in the fire. But none of those things will get done if he has a heart attack. But he’s just too busy.

I mean, come on. GET UP 20 MINUTES EARLY! A little less sleep now just may prevent a much longer sleep later, if you get my drift. Make some changes. Say no once in a while. You must make time for this.

And if you have kids that are tending to be overweight, it’s not too late for them either. But if you deny the reality of the host of physical problems they’re facing later, not to mention the mental anguish, you’re locking your kids into a life long struggle.

I see the difficulty people have with this every day. It’s not easy, and many people struggle with it. It doesn’t have to be that way. Things can change if you want them to.

Better choices now can make all the difference later. I like a burger and chocolate shake as much as the next guy, but it’s a treat, not a regular meal. It’s not as nutritious, and eaten regularly, will not only make you fat, it’ll make you sick.

I’m sure I’m going to offend someone else here, but QUIT TAKING THE KIDS OUT TO EAT ALL THE TIME! I know its fast—that’s why they call it fast food—but the consequences can last a lifetime. You’ve got to start making sure they eat right.

You need to get them moving, too. I got to watch two of my grand kids playing tee-ball the other day. It was cool, and my cutie-pie can sure hit the ball! But it’s not really physical exercise. Not yet.

At that age, it’s a bunch of kids standing around waiting for the batter to finally hit a pitch served up by the coach. If they need too many whacks at it, they hit it off the tee. Now that’s when all the action starts—a mob of little ones swarming the ball from every direction, and the batter finally runs to 1st base.

The problem is, the action lasts but a moment, and it’s a long time between hits at that age. That means a lot of standing around time. Now that’s fine, and it’s a necessary part of the learning curve, but the kids need more activity. Keep them in tee-ball, but have them do other things, too.

Try gymnastics at Talent’s Unlimited. Now that’s a workout. Or dance class. Or martial arts. They offer it at the Y, and I’ve taught a program here in town for over 20 years.

I used to think the main attributes the kids received in our classes were confidence, self-control, and of course self-defense. Now I’m starting to think that the most important thing we give them is movement. Organized physical activity, and the chance to become lean, and learn how to stay that way.

Even if you don’t take advantage of programs like those, you can take them out for a walk, or a bike ride. Or play a game with them yourself. That way you both reap the benefits. Plus, you’ll be a great example. If the kids see you taking better care of yourself, they’ll be more likely to do it too.

If you’re overweight, it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. And if your kids are overweight, it doesn’t mean they need to start that way. It’s up to you. It’s up to us. We can stop this epidemic.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Have you ever wanted to do something, but wasn’t quite sure about it? You thought you’d like to do it, but didn’t know if you could. It seemed pretty hard, so you backed away.

You’re not alone. It seems like it’s much easier to not even try sometimes. Why put yourself through the hassle? Why get started, make the investment, get things going, if you know it won’t last anyway, right?

The problem is that nothing worthwhile comes easily. If you only do those things that come easily, it’s possible you’ll never really be doing anything big, that’s life changing.

You could miss the one thing that turns everything around, set you on a new course, and take things to a new level. It’s like the old saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” It’s easy to fall into mediocrity.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re happy—really happy—with the way things are, then that’s O.K. Don’t rock the boat. Sometimes, that’s exactly the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the majority of us really feel that way. Almost all of us have a deep felt need to do something. To try something, go somewhere; to be something different.

We’re wired a certain way to do something special. If you’re a believer, you could say we’re designed that way. Until we do it, or become it, we’re never going to be completely happy. This applies to our bodies too.

And we know that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. Look, even a child knows when something is wrong. We know we need to take better care of ourselves. We know we need to eat better. But then we don’t.

It’s the same thing with that deep felt need. I think it’s really rare when someone can truly say that they’re right where they’re supposed to be—doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. Too many of us settle for second best.

We take the easy way out and try to make the most of it, and then spend the rest of our lives wondering, “What if…?” We take one step forward and two steps back and wonder why we’re not getting anywhere.

It’s time to get off that train. Let me share something that works for me, and something I’ve seen in others who seem to get what they want.

When you see someone doing something that you’d like to do, ask the question “Why not me?” I’m not suggesting you start complaining, I’m suggesting you start considering.

Who says you can’t do that? Why can’t you do that? Why can’t you go there? Why not, really? What are the reasons that make that impossible? What would it take to make it possible? Is it something that could be done if you really tried—really worked at it?

I’d like to run a marathon in less than 5 hours (I’m a snail). Why not me? What’s it going to take? Lots of running, four times a week. A speed run, a tempo run, a recovery run, and a long run (see last week’s article for more details).

I’ve run (trotted) three of them now. It’s getting tiresome seeing people several decades my senior passing me up (God bless em).

Last year in mile 24, a sweet gray 70 year old woman caught me, slowed down and asked, “how you doing sweety?” I managed to get out “fine, but this is hard.” She patted me on the shoulder and said encouragingly “that’s O.K., you can do it.” Then she left me in her dust. Seriously.

Yesterday I really didn’t want to run 16 miles. I was tired from working on this tree that fell down in the recent storm. It’s a 100 year old oak tree. Well, 99 years. It’s enormous and I’ve been cutting on it for a week and have several weeks to go.

It was too hot to run outside, so I waited till 6pm to start. Too late, it turns out, because I ended up running an hour and a half in the dark. I told you I was slow.

It was inconvenient. I missed out on some time with my wife. If I want to achieve the goal in the fall though, it had to be done. Next time, I’ll start earlier. But I’m going to start, because I keep wondering, “Why not me?”

I met a woman today wondering the same thing. She’s retired, overweight, has some medical problems and just doesn’t feel good anymore. She wants a better life and has finally reached the point where she’s thinking “Why not me?”

I’m tired of settling. So is she. Together we’re going to accomplish something. We’re going to cover new ground. Make a new start. Find something special in the future. Sure it’s going to take some hard work and sweat. It’s going to be inconvenient, even messy sometimes.

But life is inconvenient. Life gets messy. Even when we’re settling. A year is going to pass, whatever we decide to do. I want to spend it going somewhere. Doing something important. Making a difference. How about you? Have you ever asked, “Why not me?”